Biden plans to work with Republicans: Former Obama aides say that's delusional

Several veterans of the Obama White House suggest the former veep is being either naive or dishonest in wooing GOP

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 12, 2019 4:50PM (EDT)

Barack Obama; Joe Biden (Getty/Salon)
Barack Obama; Joe Biden (Getty/Salon)

Former aides to Barack Obama said that former Vice President Joe Biden’s plan to work with Republicans was either “delusional or dishonest” after years of GOP obstruction.

“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change,” Biden said during a fundraiser Monday. “Because these folks know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing."

Obama aides who lived through eight years of obstruction by Mitch McConnell and company rejected Biden’s comment as naive.

“Fuck no,” a former senior Obama aide told The Daily Beast when asked if Republicans would be willing to work with the former veep.

Ben LaBolt, who served as Obama’s 2012 campaign press secretary, sarcastically added that he is sure that “Mitch McConnell and Mark Meadows will rush to form the Woke Caucus. And Nelson Rockefeller will be revived from his grave."

Biden has long touted his willingness to reach across the aisle, but many of the deals he cut during the Obama administration were not exactly popular with his own party. Biden’s deals included two extensions of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and an agreement with McConnell that paved the way for major spending cuts.

“If Biden were prepared to negotiate like he did during the fiscal cliff and the Bush tax cut extensions, where Republicans basically got everything we wanted and he got a tiny bit, I’m sure there would be deals to get done,” a senior Senate leadership aide told The Daily Beast.

Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, added that Biden’s naiveté may hurt him among Democratic voters. The idea that Republicans will have a post-Trump “epiphany” will be “met with great skepticism given Republicans' eight-year obstruction of Obama,” he said.

Former senior Senate aides agreed that the Republicans will not compromise because their unprecedented obstruction during the Obama years scored them big wins.

"It’s either delusional or dishonest,” Adam Jentleson, who was deputy chief of staff to former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, told The Daily Beast. “Republicans reaped enormous gains from their obstruction, like securing the balance of the Supreme Court for a generation or more. They know obstruction works and they will eat Biden’s lunch while he reminisces about the good old days.”

Chris Kang, who served as deputy counsel and deputy assistant to Obama, noted that Obama tried to work with Republicans too. For instance, he nominated a judge to the Supreme Court who was backed by several Republican senators — the now famous Merrick Garland — only to see him blocked anyway.

“Republicans are beyond senseless when it comes to judges, and it has nothing to do with Trump. Their unprecedented obstruction of Obama's nominees started in January 2009 and ended with blocking Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court,” Kang told The Daily Beast. “They blocked nominees whom they originally recommended themselves … and in Obama's last two years, they confirmed the fewest circuit judges since the 1800s. Democrats need to recognize that there are no ‘good old days’ to return to on judges.”

Biden’s claim echoes what Obama believed about the Republican Party during his 2012 re-election bid.

"My expectation is that if we can break this fever, that we can invest in clean energy and energy efficiency because that's not a partisan issue," Obama said in June of 2012. "I believe that If we're successful in this election, when we're successful in this election, that the fever may break, because there's a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that. My hope, my expectation, is that after the election, now that it turns out that the goal of beating Obama doesn't make much sense because I'm not running again, that we can start getting some cooperation again.”

Instead, Republicans went on to block dozens of Obama nominees, including Garland, and a few years later nominated Donald Trump, a man who built his political career on false suggestions that Obama was not born in the United States.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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